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January 1 is a day for agenda-setting, if only because the calendar says so.
Our leaders from Washington to Frankfort to Shelbyville will be putting into motion their ideas for the coming year.
They will project how best to deal with the staggering difficulties from our economic picture, the need for better healthcare for all and myriad other problems.
Privately, the kings of industry will be developing plans to restore and grow their businesses.
And we as individuals will try to cope with the impacts of all those decisions.
In Shelby County, the needs are obvious, the possibilities invigorating, and the potential positive. But our objectives must remain clear, and as a community we must maintain focus.
No, not everything can be accomplished this year, but it’s important that we be ambitious in our thinking and planning. Stretching to higher goals can provide even short-term benefits.
To help stimulate these conversations, The Sentinel-News today suggests goals for this community that incorporate new ideas and continue progress on those already in place.
As the year unfolds, The Sentinel-News will advance these discussions and debates, and we implore you, the public, to join in and help determine the community’s vision for 2009.
Grow the economy
Shelby’s portion of the No. 1 national issue is simple: The county must strengthen its role as a subsidiary for major industry and diversify others. The community lost hundreds of jobs in 2008, and there needs to be a tourniquet for that bleeding, primarily in the development of new industries to replace the old. Abandoned facilities – such as Leggett & Platt in Simpsonville – need immediate replacement, and similar factories on the downturn. Others, such as Martinrea, need new missions. The Eaton Corp. that will build a new facility in Simpsonville is the sort of clean industry that should be pursued diligently.
Finish the bypass
The Shelbyville Bypass – not really a beltway but more a set of suspenders that links Kentucky Highways 55 and 53 on the north side of town – is an important connector for businesses and residents. But it also must continue to be planned and managed well, with a limited commitment to industrial and retail development and limited access to maintain traffic flow.
Clear up Clear Creek
Clear Creek is perhaps the greatest oxymoron in the area. At its best there are small pools of clarity and potential. At its worst it’s a public dump. Shelbyville needs a greater investment in Clear Creek as a natural resource for green space and recreation. Let’s rid it of pollution, of clogs and improve its flow and use its banks to fulfill the need for a community-wide trail system, tying together Clear Creek Park and Red Orchard Park in a user-friendly environment.
Shelby County’s natural beauty and well-managed growth need a new teammate – countywide curbside recycling. Our commitment to our environment should not be compromised, and that commitment must start at home, where residents should be able to dump glass, tin, plastic and paper into a bin to be picked up and processed. Our quality of life depends on it, as does the future of our environment.
Keep schools on course
Shelby County Public Schools’ aggressive and impressive plan for its new campus site west of Shelbyville continues to progress, and that should not be deterred. This campus will be a vital lynchpin for future generations, and our commitment that that can not be swayed.
Invest in green facilities
The plans that call for eco-friendly construction for this new school campus should become the blueprint for all other building projects. Green buildings are important for the future, and every facility planned and approved locally – the judicial center and Eaton, to name two -- should be held to strict standards that reinforce that need. Our children depend on us to ensure the world they inhabit is environmentally protected.
Maintain Main Street
Downtown Shelbyville must remain the vital core of this community, and the new Judicial Center is an investment to insure that it does. More retail and entertainment business hopefully will follow, but all of these initiatives must embrace one of Shelby County’s greatest natural resources: its history. What some don’t realize is that our history is also a cornerstone for what this community can become, the foundation, as it were, for building the county as a destination and not just a thoroughfare. Maintaining and embracing our history should not be the passion of a few but rather the mission for us all, and using it as a propellant to seed business development downtown would bear fruit.
Develop a civic center
The idea on many lists about building Shelby County a new civic center is one that needs immediate and inventive action. It’s time to create a partnership between public and private entities that can make this happen. And the building should not be seen simply as a convention facility but a venue that can serve the arts, education and preservation needs of the entire county. It’s a great way for local government to give back to the community.
Continue to give
There are so many who give so much, and the need continues to expand. The businesses and nonprofits that collect and distribute do so both admirably and effectively. And their leadership roles must be expanded to include even more businesses and individuals (re: volunteers), who would pick up the load for those who can’t bear it.